Freshwater traits workshop

  • Shallow water. Image - Tom Fraser

    Shallow water. Image - Tom Fraser

Negative resistance and resilience occurs when communities have exceeded critical  tipping points, are dominated by species that preserve the status quo, and remain degraded and restoration-resistant.

A BioHeritage funded research project, led by the University of Canterbury Freshwater Ecology Research Group, with help from NIWA, is investigating using functional traits and food web properties to gain insights into how negative resistance and resilience is maintained in degraded ecosystems and what needs to happen to move these systems to a healthy state.

To achieve this the team need to understand what is required for healthy and functioning freshwater ecosystems. What are the functional traits (feeding and reproduction strategies, size and mobility) of desirable native species? How do these differ from traits of species that thrive in degraded ecosystem and cope with the stressors (e.g., pollution, sediment) that cause degredation.

Establishing a traits database is the first step in the process and, as part of this process, the team held a national workshop on freshwater traits for New Zealand. They gathered a wide range of knowledge holders and data users working on freshwater species, ecosystems and management from throughout New Zealand to discuss how traits are currently being used, the broad range of existing and potential applications, and commonalities that would help form the basis of a national database for freshwater fauna (primary producers, macro invertebrates, fish).

The workshop generated feedback on trait commonalities across all trophic levels, and discussion around key aspects of merits, caveats and opportunities that lie ahead. Emphasis was placed on how to best work together to enhance existing knowledge bases, and the potential for biological attribute data to enable research and management needs and questions.

The  levels of local, national and international support and interest in the development of a freshwater traits database was really encouraging and the team's focus in now on collecting the data and getting the database up and running.

Kia ora & Thank you to the experts who attended and the National Freshwater Sciences Society for the  support.